Democrats claim Barr distorted Mueller
Democrats accused Attorney General William Barr of whitewashing special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings last week in order to bolster President Trump’s claim of “total exoneration.” After Barr released a four-page summary on March 24 quoting sparingly from Mueller’s 448-page report, Democrats in Congress demanded to see the unredacted report for themselves, and their anger boiled over when Barr held a press conference shortly before making the redacted report public. Barr—who revealed that he had consulted with the White House before releasing the report—reiterated several times that the investigation found “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. Explaining why he decided not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice, Barr said, “The president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency.”
Democrats seized on several key areas where the report explicitly contradicts Barr’s summary. They noted that Mueller indicated he was presenting his evidence of obstruction to Congress so that lawmakers could decide on the next step. Barr, however, claimed the special counsel’s decision not to charge Trump meant that he, as attorney general, should intercede. “It’s a disgrace to see an attorney general acting as if he’s the personal attorney and publicist for the president,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
What the columnists said
Barr’s “pre-spin” worked, said Aaron Blake in WashingtonPost.com. His summary quoted Mueller as saying he didn’t find evidence that Trump campaign officials “conspired or coordinated” with Russia, conveniently omitting that Mueller also wrote that “the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” Barr said Mueller told him his decision on obstruction hadn’t been influenced by Justice Department guidelines against indicting a sitting president. It turns out Mueller felt constrained by that policy. “You have to wonder how the report might have landed” had Barr not convinced “half the country” that his boss had done nothing wrong.
Democrats are desperately trying to create “a new political villain,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. They’ve accused Barr of a cover-up—but of what, exactly? Democrats demanded an immediate summary, which Barr provided, even including Mueller’s line that his report “does not exonerate” Trump. Then Barr was preemptively “attacked for making redactions,” yet the black bars proved to be minimal and the report is now public, “warts and all.”
It’s time to begin impeachment proceedings—against Barr, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. During congressional testimony, he made the groundless claim that the FBI was guilty of “spying” on Trump’s campaign, and at his press conference he worked in “the maximal number of repetitions of the ‘no collusion’ mantra.” Barr painted Trump as the victim of a witch hunt, glossing over the president’s furious attempts to subvert the investigation, including by giving only written answers to questions—answers that Mueller deemed “inadequate.” “Nearly two more years of this Trumpian henchman wielding power is more than the Constitution can bear.” ■